With their sophomore record ‘Full Heal’, Southampton-based Waking Aida had hoped to put together an album which “felt like a journey”. The Hampshire quartet have certainly been on a wild one journey of their own since last year’s release of ‘Eschaton’, and it’s difficult to go into the first listen of the new album without pretty high expectations. The outfit have certainly found themselves in good company since last summer, whether at the Strangeforms or ArcTanGent festivals or shows alongside the likes of Alpha Male Tea Party and Maybeshewill. The camaraderie of the British post-rock scene is a special one to say the least, and it would be near unfathomable for such minglings not to pay off when a band already capable of turning heads dove into the studio once more.
Early signs are good as opening track ‘Exploding Palm’ gets going. It’s transportive to say the least, for the first seven minutes of ‘Full Heal’ it’s the end of August all over again, and we’re back at Fernhill Farm. Past the halfway mark as guitars give way to let piano drive the melody on through the remainder of the track is when the realisation first hits of just how far Waking Aida have come as an all-round unit in such a short time, and it’s a feeling that will linger throughout the duration of the record. The crescendo that builds over the final minutes is gone within an instant, and one of the album’s longest tracks feels like it could have been left to continue for hours more. ‘Blue Shelled’ doesn’t drop the ball, however, and it buys another seven minutes in heaven with a band truly maturing into a fantastic instrumental unit. In a cinematic reconstruction of an actual blue-shelling in Mario Kart, ‘Blue Shelled’ would fit so well as a soundtrack. The impact, the changes of pace, everything comes together so well. Once again, the last three minutes are where the real heart of the track lies, and we’re taken into ‘Higher Fives Than I’ll Ever Be’ still riding a relentless wave of momentum.
With the two opening tracks of ‘Full Heal’ relying so strongly on the last three minutes to really take things to the next level, it’s interesting to see whether ‘Higher Fives’ can keep the momentum on a high being three minutes shorter than both. There needn’t be any worry however, as even the shorter and more laid-back effort manages to fit in all the almost-playful emotion necessary to go down an absolute treat. Like with ‘Blue Shelled’, it’s the guitar work in the track’s later stages that really steals the show, and Waking Aida are developing a habit of making such well-calculated ebbs as each track ends, ready for the next to kick things straight back into gear. It’s a trend that continues as ‘A Sort of Calm’ leads us into the half-way point of the record; everything so perfectly weighted ensuring that there’s not a single false start or burnout to be found. It’s baffling to think that what is such an easy record to listen to can still be mesmerising to the point that it’s impossible to tear focus away. There are albums of a certain type that come along very rarely; ones that you simply can’t listen to a single track from without allowing the whole record to pull you in. Waking Aida certainly seem to have given us such an album in the form of ‘Full Heal’.
‘Fume’ offers up another change of direction, feeling almost like an interlude of sorts, so removed is it from the more typical sounds of the record. More electronic for sure, but Waking Aida’s knack for building an atmosphere continues to shine through. ‘Full Heal’ is fast becoming a journey not just for the listener but for the band themselves, on a voyage through the entire spectrum of their musical talent. Regardless of what side of the speakers you’re on, it really is a fantastic adventure. ‘Jilted Surfers’ returns us to more familiar territory, and it’s so delightfully tempting just to zone out amongst the tranquillising haze of strings. ‘Day-Glo Forest’ provides the wake-up call, and what an awakening it is. ‘Full Heal’’ shows the penultimate card in its hand and after the seventh straight ace it’s really starting to seem like they’ve rigged the deck. We leave the record in the same way it greeted us; a pair of seven-minute offerings encapsulating damn near everything you could ask for from a band that want nothing but to move you. We end on a simply stunning title track, and there’s a nagging desperation to go back and take in the entire panorama again. The slow fadeout of ‘Full Heal’ brings to a close one of the most engaging albums of the year with not a foot put wrong.
“We wanted to make an album that felt like a journey”, guitarist James Cleary had said of ‘Full Heal’ as it was released into the world this past week. It took seven minutes for that mission to be accomplished. From there it could have been cruise control for Waking Aida, but the entire record is such an obvious labour of love that it’s clear the quartet never once eased off the gas. It’s one thing to promise one journey, but ‘Full Heal’ has given us eight. Each can stand alone so well but with the way they all come together, there’s really no better way to absorb them than all as one. There’s a very good reason that the post-rock genre has been seeing so many new faces in recent months and years, and that’s because bands like Waking Aida are making it sound like the best damn thing in the world. When presented with a record like ‘Full Heal’, it seems impossible to argue that it’s anything less.
‘Full Heal’ by Waking Aida is out now on Robot Needs Home.
Words by Antony Lusmore (@VilinskiKonjic)